EASTBOURNE Borough could have striker Gary Hart back in their starting line-up for tomorrow’s FA Trophy third qualifying round tie at home to Dartford.
The former Brighton & Hove Albion favourite has been hard hit by injury this season and has not started a league game since Borough’s last win in the Blue Bet South against Eastleigh on October 3, although he did score twice in the seven-goal Sussex Senior Cup demolition of Little Common.
He has been one of a formidable star trio sadly conspicuous by their absence as Garry Wilson’s men have struggled for the consistency so necessary to make them play-off candidates.
Hart confirmed his fitness on Thursday when he told Herald Sport, “If chosen I will be delighted to start, as long as I don’t make any stupid tackles.”
Hart and Ross Treleaven both came on late in the 2-0 home defeat against Basingstoke last Saturday, while the other missing man, skipper Ben Austin, who has been recovering from a hernia operation, came through 90 minutes in the reserves. Austin, however, was unable to train on Thursday night.
“We have got to be more gentle with Ross,” admitted Wilson. “He is getting there but has to build up and try to get to where he was just over a year ago. At one point his progress was static and that was worrying, but he is doing more at training and gradually getting back to where he was.
“Gary Hart can be accelerated a bit more and there is a possibility he could be starting on Saturday, although we have not yet finalised our line-up.
“Ben got through 90 minutes with the reserves against Sutton and that is encouraging.
“The skill and quality of these three players make a big difference, but we are certainly hopeful we can get them back to full fitness soon.
“They really need matches to get their fitness levels up more quickly.”
With Borough currently marooned in mid-table, a run in the FA Trophy would undoubtedly inject life into what has so far been a frustrating season.
“We started slowly, had a run, then went back and now we need to go again,” insisted Wilson. “A run in the Trophy would give everyone a welcome boost, although we know it will not be easy. We were beaten 2-1 by Dartford back in August and in all honesty it could have been more. But we were low in numbers that night and I think we will be better equipped this time.”
One dilemma facing Wilson and assistant Nick Greenwood is likely to be the choice of goalkeeper. Clark Masters took over between the posts following the FA Cup defeat at the hands of East Thurrock, but was guilty of gifting Basingstoke the killer second goal last Saturday when he allowed a tame free-kick to slip out of his arms.
“It was a bad error and he put his hands up,” said Wilson. “He took his eye off the ball and I think there was a bit of rustiness involved after his injury lay-off.”
Dartford last season caused the shock result of the tournament when they beat Conference champions Crawley Town in the second round before eventually crashing out to Conference Gateshead in the last 16.
One man who will know all about that run last season is Carl Rook. The striker was signed from tomorrow’s visitors and recently scored hat-tricks against Arundel and Little Common in the Sussex Senior Cup.
The 28-year-old, who signed for Tonbridge Angels in 2007 for a reported £10,000, will be anxious to get a chance to impress against his former employers although he has recently been on the bench.
Relief for Borough will be that since that August defeat Charlie Sheringham (son of former England star Teddy) has joined League 2 Bournemouth and current top scorer Elliot Bradbrook is serving a one-match ban.